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CT Construction Digest Tuesday June 28, 2022

Renovations at Gosinski Park are moving ahead in Plymouth


PLYMOUTH – Despite a delay due to supply issues, renovations at Gosinski Park are still moving ahead.

Vinnie Klimas, chair of the Plymouth Housing Authority said in April that construction for accessibility improvements at the senior housing units would begin in May. The timetable has now been moved to Aug. 1.

"PAC Group LLC, of Torrington told us that the supplies are harder to get due to covid," said Klimas. "I was told that they sued to be able to get them in a week or two. Now it takes a month. But, the project is still moving forward."

In the meantime, Klimas said, the Plymouth Housing Authority has hired McCabe's Moving, of Southington, to assist residents with moving. The construction will see units renovated in two "clusters" of five units at a time. During this renovation, residents will be temporarily relocated to 12 empty, "idle capacity" units that are maintained for this purpose. Klimas has said that the state will reimburse these costs.

"If people want to pack up on their own, they can do so, but we are also willing to help pack, move and unpack for them," said Klimas.

Gosinski Park was originally built in 1965 and additional units were added in 1968. The project will see six units become fully ADA accessible while the other 54 units will also see “substantial” renovations. Residents can look forward to easier wheelchair access to buildings and easier ability to turn in hallways. The community room will be increased to twice the current size and there will be walk-in tubs and showers and larger kitchen spaces.

"I have spoken to a gentleman who has lived in unit number one for some time and uses a wheelchair to get around," said Klimas. "He is looking forward to being able to turn around easier in the hallways without his wheelchair banging into the walls. Also, previously, he had to remove his bathroom door to be able to get inside with his wheelchair. He will now have a 32 inch door which will let him get in and out with the wheelchair while also having his privacy."

Klimas said that getting to the point where construction is ready to begin on this project took seven-and-a-half years of filling out the required paperwork. There will be a groundbreaking ceremony in the near future to celebrate this effort coming to fruition.

When the project first went out to bid, Klimas said, bids came back “way over budget.” The second time it went out to bid, the lowest bid from PAC Group LLC, of Torrington was still $800,000 over budget due to increased materials costs resulting from the pandemic. However, Klimas said, the state covered the $800,000 to allow the project to move forward.

Klimas said he is grateful to the Housing Authority Board of Directors, former mayor David Merchant, current mayor Joe Kilduff, this town council and the previous town council for their support throughout the project's history. He also thanked Governor Ned Lamont and Department of Housing Commissioner Seila Mosquera-Bruno for their support at the state level.

The total cost of the project is $5,271,070, which breaks down as follows:

. $2,509,725 from the Department of Housing State Sponsored Housing Portfolio through the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority,

. $2,300,000 in Department of Housing Community Development Block Grant funds through the town of Plymouth

. $100,000 from Town of Plymouth Community Development Block Grant program income

. $50,000 from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds allocated to the Town of Plymouth

. $278,000 in Department of Housing Predevelopment Loans

. $14,877 in Housing Authority Property Reserves

. $16,663 in Housing Authority Equity funds

. $1,805 in energy rebates

Developer proposes apartments, condos in West Hartford Center

Michael Walsh

WEST HARTFORD — A developer has plans to build a new apartment building and condominiums in West Hartford Center.

Marc Lewis, of Lexham LaSalle Development, is joining with Manafort WHC and West Hartford Arapahoe to form The Arapahoe Group with the intention of building two buildings at the corner of LaSalle Road and Arapahoe Road on property Lewis already owns.

If approved by the town council, the development would consist of 18 to 20 apartments at 75 LaSalle and 64 condos at Center Park Place. Four of the apartment units will be workforce housing.

The project, six years in the making, would see the group develop the apartment building, 75 LaSalle, in what’s now the parking lot for the Webster Bank building. The condominiums will utilize lots behind the building.

Parking will be replaced in the area with the inclusion of surface parking and an underground garage. In all, Lewis said they expect to have around 280 parking spaces, with 100 of those being dedicated to the public, with that rising to 220 at night and on the weekends.

Lewis said he’s utilizing a little-used ordinance the town passed in 2017 for projects just like this one.

“It was designed to create development incentives,” Lewis said about the ordinance. “No one has ever used it, because the fact is there is almost no land available to develop in the town center. It’s very difficult to do it and it’s also very restrictive. Taking advantage of all of those things, we’re trying to put this together to create a fairly substantial transformation of an area that actually needs it terribly.”

Lewis said he sees replacing parking lots and two office buildings on Arapahoe Road that aren’t being used with these two buildings as a boon for the area. The apartment building, he said, will also add about 3,500 square feet of ground floor retail space. There will also be green space that’s open to the public.

“The benefits for the town, as far as merchants go, you’re bringing in a modest amount of people who will shop and spend and contribute to the commercial vibrancy of all the merchants in that area,” Lewis said. “They will shop there and they will go out to eat there. They will contribute to the value of these merchants, which the stores are needing.”

So far, Lewis said they’ve had meetings with the town’s design committee, and have already made some design changes based on their recommendations. He’s hoping to put the plan in front of the town council by August or September. Construction, he said, could take two years.

New Britain Water Department making three major upgrades which will cost about $27 million

NEW BRITAIN – The city’s Water Department is embarking on three major upgrades to its infrastructure, totaling about $26.7 million.

New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart spoke to the Herald Monday about the projects, which are being funded through the department’s operating budget and loan/grant programs available to the city.

“The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) program provides long term loans to finance improvement projects,” Stewart said. “It is a very useful tool for us to be able to take advantage of in order to pay for a lot of these projects, which directly impact the amount of clean water we are able to flow through our system.”

City officials are applying for DWSRF funding to supplement the cost of the $24 million White Bridge Well Field and Pond Station Upgrade Project. The site in focus is owned by the City of New Britain but located in Bristol.

“We’re planning to replace 32 wells that are about 100 years old with nine new larger wells,” Stewart said. “A lot of work has to be done on this site to get all of the systems up and running properly so that we are able to use it as a backup source of drinking water in the event of an emergency.”

This project will include three phases, the first of which will dredge the pond, replace the wells and repair the pond station.

The department’s second initiative is to make improvements at the Whigville Dam in Burlington, one of seven reservoirs owned by the city of New Britain which feed into the Shuttle Meadow Reservoir. More specifically, $700,000 will be spent to replace the property’s aging water valve.

Finally, the third project is to make upgrades to the Water SCADA system, located at the city’s water treatment facility. Budgeted at $2 million, this project will allow for remote monitoring and operations.

Public comment sought Tuesday on proposed $379 million school project in Norwich

Claire Bessette

Norwich — Residents, parents and educators are invited to comment Tuesday night on a $379 million proposed school construction project that calls for four new elementary schools, major renovations to one middle school and relocating central offices.

After state reimbursement, the project would cost Norwich taxpayers an estimated $149 million.

The School Building Committee will hold a public informational meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Kelly Middle School. Project design officials Jim Barrett and Greg Smolley from architectural firm Drummey Rosane Anderson Inc., or DRA, will present an overview of the plan, and the committee will take questions and comments from the audience before voting on whether to endorse the project and forward it to the City Council.

The committee hopes the council will schedule a referendum on the project in conjunction with the Nov. 8 election.

The proposal calls for building four new elementary schools on existing school properties plus the former Greeneville School site, closing three other elementary schools. Teachers’ Memorial Global Studies Middle School would undergo extensive relocations. Central offices and adult education would move to Samuel Huntington School, which would close as an elementary school.

School Building Committee Chairman Mark Bettencourt said he realizes the project is costly but said without a major restructuring of schools, the city will face growing costs to maintain old, cramped building with unequal education opportunities for city students.

“These are difficult decisions,” Bettencourt said, “but the fact of the matter is, if we don’t do this, if we don’t pass this, we will be spending untold millions for capital improvements out of our own pockets, with no state assistance. And we’ll still have seven old buildings that are inadequate educationally. We lack parity now.”

Renovations needed at the Teachers’ Memorial Global Studies Middle School would be the costliest in the plan at $99 million, with the city’s cost after state reimbursement at $32.1 million.

Four new elementary schools each would house about 525 students in preschool through fifth grade. The grounds of the Moriarty Environmental Sciences Magnet School, the John B. Stanton School and Uncas School and property where the Greeneville School had stood were selected as the best sites.

School central offices would move along with adult education into the Huntington School. Wequonnoc School in Taftville would become a virtual learning center. The Thomas Mahan, Veterans’ Memorial, Bishop Early Learning Center and central offices in the former John Mason School all would be closed.

Recently renovated Kelly STEAM Middle School and post-high school vocational Norwich Transition Academy on Case Street would remain as is.

Norwich mayor: West Main Street water main break could happen again

Claire Bessette

Norwich – Just days after Mayor Peter Nystrom warned state transportation officials that heavy construction to create six roundabouts on Route 82 could damage aging water mains, a nearly 100-year-old main broke early Monday, closing the busy commercial strip for several hours.

Norwich Public Utilities said the 10-inch diameter water main, installed in 1926, at the West Main Street-Osgood Street intersection broke about 12:30 a.m. Monday. Water service was disrupted to 13 customers and forced officials to close the road to traffic to repair the break. Water service was restored by mid-morning, NPU spokesman Chris Riley said, but the road remained closed for much of Monday for repairs.

The intersection is one of six sites where the state Department of Transportation plans to replace traffic lights with roundabouts. The Osgood Street roundabout is proposed for the first phase of the two-phase, $45 million project that would run from Fairmount Street west to the area of Salem Plaza. DOT project officials held a public informational meeting on the project Thursday at Kelly Middle School.

NPU officials said the water line was in a fairly shallow trench, possibly because of ledge beneath the surface.

“Nearly 100 years of traffic, wear and tear are likely the cause of the water main break,” Riley said in an email Monday.

During last week’s informational meeting, Nystrom told the DOT project crew that the city water lines beneath the 1.3-mile strip where the reconstruction would take place are 100 years old and could be damaged with the digging and heavy equipment needed for the construction project. Nystrom said DOT should replace the aging lines prior to the project, warning that if nothing is done, a weakened line could burst sometime after the new pavement is laid down.

Nystrom said he visited the break area Monday morning and planned to contact DOT project officials and the commissioner’s office to repeat his call to have DOT replace the line if the project goes forward.

“It’s going to be repeated,” Nystrom said of a water main break, “if we don’t take care of it now.”

Riley said NPU has developed a preliminary estimate of at least $8 million to replace the water main along West Main Street in conjunction with the roundabouts project. Riley said there may be state or federal funding to assist with the project.

“We will continue to evaluate how best to move forward in a way that benefits NPU, the city, and our community,” Riley said.

DOT project officials were not available immediately for comment Monday.

Construction of Whole Foods Market begins in South Windsor

Andrew Larson

Agroundbreaking ceremony for a Whole Foods Market and Shake Shack in South Windsor took place last week.

The new 50,000-square-foot store is part of the Promenade Shops at Evergreen Walk’s “Evergreen 2.0” redevelopment plan.

Officials with Charter Realty and Development, which manages the property, announced that other new tenants include The Goddard School, a private early childhood education provider, and the upscale furniture store Lovesac. 

Charter Realty plans to announce more tenants in the coming weeks, including a national athletic brand.

The new Whole Foods is the chain’s fifth store in the Greater Hartford area. It will be located on the western end of the property in the former Highland Park Market space, which closed in

Old Navy and Sakura Garden will move from their current spaces as part of the redevelopment, but won’t experience any downtime, the company said.

South Windsor Mayor Liz Pendleton said the town had been trying to bring a Whole Foods Market to town for years.

Construction, Transportation Groups Push Back on Biden's Gas-Tax Proposal

Lobbying groups representing manufacturers, construction contractors, and civil engineers joined dozens of industry groups on June 22 to criticize President Biden's proposal to suspend the federal gas tax to combat sky-high fuel prices.

The various coalitions argued that the effort will not bring relief to consumers at the pump and could adversely affect major transportation construction paid for by the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), which is funded by the nation's gas tax.

Biden called on Congress to pass a three-month pause on the tax, which charges customers 18.4 cents per gallon of gas and 24.4 cents for diesel. The president also wants states to suspend their gas tax during the 90-day period.

The White House aims to offset the loss of tax revenue with other federal funds to ensure that transportation projects continue, according to The Hill, an independent political news source based in Washington, D.C.

"With the tax revenues up this year and our deficit down over $1.6 trillion this year alone, we'll still be able to fix our highways and bring down prices of gas," Biden said in his announcement. "We can do both at the same time."

But Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, said in a statement, "Our nation achieved historic progress with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, but this move is likely to derail its implementation by suddenly disrupting its funding, delaying critical projects that Americans desperately need and that are vital to manufacturers' competitiveness."

Letter Expressed Industry Concerns

According to The Hill, Timmons' group joined the American Public Transportation Association, the American Trucking Associations, and dozens of other organizations in sending a letter to Biden June 22 arguing that the gas tax holiday jeopardizes "the certainty necessary for our state and local partners to plan long-term projects and the … hiring and equipment purchasing required."

Newsweek reported June 23 that the transportation and infrastructure groups warned Biden that ending gas taxes would throw the nation's highway and public transit projects into chaos by taking away the HTF's consistent source of revenue. That, in turn, could jeopardize road maintenance and upgrades.

Among the message's 33 signatories were the Americans for Transportation Mobility (ATM) coalition and the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC). They added that the gas-tax holiday, costing around $10 billion, would lead to negative effects for American roads, bridges, transit systems and jobs, the magazine said.

The letter also spelled out to Biden that his proposal would "undermine efforts" to create jobs and realize the investments made under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

Michael Ireland, president and CEO of Skokie, Ill.-based Portland Cement, also signed the letter to the White House. Later, he told Newsweek in a statement that Biden's proposal is "the wrong decision at the wrong moment."

"Removing the funding from the gas tax will strangle the IIJA before it is even up and running," he added.

America's cement manufacturers have committed to reaching carbon neutrality in the construction chain by 2050, he said. That aim, and the sustainability goals of the IIJA, "dovetail nicely."

"However, achieving these goals requires significant funding," Ireland explained, noting that "the gasoline tax is crucial for meeting these funding needs."

Chances of Plan Passing Congress Slim

Manufacturers and construction industry leaders are not the only ones averse to the president's proposal.

The plan also is receiving mixed reviews in Congress, which must approve it. Industry opposition to the gas tax holiday would likely worsen its chances on Capitol Hill, noted The Hill, where Republicans and some prominent Democrats have dismissed the idea.

Congressional Democrats such as House Majority Leader and Speaker of the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Tom Carper have expressed doubts about whether a federal gas tax holiday is the best way to ease high gas costs for Americans.

Carper, from Biden's home state of Delaware, tweeted: "Suspending the primary way that we pay for infrastructure projects on our roads is a shortsighted and inefficient way to provide relief."

After peaking at $5.016 per gallon on June 14, the national average for gas prices eased to $4.955 on June 23, though that is still much higher than the $3.069 cost about a year ago, according to Newsweek.

The soaring prices have put Biden under pressure to help ease pain at the pump for Americans who are also dealing with consumer inflation hitting a 40-year high in May.

The Hill reported a study from the University of Pennsylvania found that suspending the tax from March to December would reduce per capita gasoline spending between $16 and $47. The Penn researchers also noted that when states suspended their gas tax, only a portion of the savings was passed down to consumers, with retailers pocketing the extra profits.

New $11B Infrastructure Bill in Massachusetts Includes Money for East-West Rail

The Massachusetts House of Representatives took a major step June 23 toward injecting billions of dollars into work on the state's transportation and environmental infrastructure — including $250 million toward a possible east-west rail extension.

The House voted 155-0 in favor of a nearly $11 billion infrastructure bond bill after approving a mega-amendment that tacked on about $560 million in additional spending, mostly consisting of local earmarks, as well as new reporting requirements for the beleaguered Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) amid a federal investigation.

Hundreds of millions of dollars from the bill are to be used for fixing glaring safety issues at the MBTA, the State House News Service (SHNS) in Boston reported.

Transportation Committee Co-chair Rep. William Straus called the legislation "this session's signature transportation bond bill."

Funds to Build Worchester to Pittsfield Rail Line

Before sending it to the floor for June 23's debate, House leaders bulked up the bill with $250 million to be used as a down payment toward a western Massachusetts rail extension and $400 million that the MBTA would use to correct harrowing safety problems identified in an ongoing federal investigation.

The bill allocates $250 million toward the long-sought east-west rail project, which the bill said, "shall include Pittsfield to Boston service via Springfield, Palmer and Worcester."

The down payment would be for "transportation planning, design, permitting and engineering, public hearings and engagement, acquisition of interests in land, vehicle procurement, construction, construction of stations and right-of-way acquisition," the House Ways and Means Committee said prior to the vote.

Leaders earlier called for more deliberation about the "oversight structure, capital and operational funding" of the project after Gov. Charlie Baker and members of the state's congressional delegation said they had agreed to a "path forward" for the proposal.

But SHNS noted that it stops short of fulfilling U.S. Rep. Richard Neal's call for the Legislature to create a new public agency to oversee rail service in Western Massachusetts. Instead, it proposes creating a new commission to examine whether an existing entity could build and operate the rail expansion.

A Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) study in 2020 forecast that extending passenger rail from its current endpoint in Worcester west to Palmer, Springfield, Chester and Pittsfield would cost between $2.4 billion and $4.6 billion while attracting hundreds of thousands of riders per year.

Senate Likely to Overcome Any Objections to Pass Bill

The infrastructure bond bill now heads to the Senate, where top Democrats have not signaled if they support setting aside a pool of money for the MBTA's safety response.

A spokesperson for Senate President Karen Spilka did not directly answer a question from SHNS about whether she supports the additional MBTA dollars, saying only that the Spilka "looks forward to reviewing the bond bill in its entirety."

Spilka's spokesperson took note of a joint statement from the senator and House Speaker Ronald Mariano on June 21 in which the duo announced they would seek an MBTA oversight hearing but stopped short of taking a position on funding to respond to Federal Transit Administration (FTA) findings.

Their statement did make clear that both leaders "expect to increase the amount of available funding" for east-west rail, according to SHNS.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, one of the chamber's three Republicans, said he believes the MBTA, known colloquially as "the T" requires added funding.

"The T has needed additional infusions of resources for quite some time, and the Baker-Polito administration has been making some of those infusions together with the Legislature," Tarr told SHNS. "It seems to me that we have some serious safety issues that need to be addressed at the T. Part of the consideration here needs to be how will the additional resources be used to improve safety as opposed to just expanding the system?

"That's particularly my concern with the western expansion," he added. "I think there is good reason to proceed with that, cautiously, but first and foremost we need to think about how we improve the safety of the MBTA.

"We need to think about resources that need to go to that, but we also need to think about the continuing levels of subsidy for the operation. Years ago, we had agreed to forward funding in trying to make the T self-sufficient. Given what's happened with the pandemic, that simply is not possible, and we're still in a period of recovery, in my opinion, but we need to think about how those dollars are used."

New Monies to Energize Other Bay State Projects

SHNS reported that the new infrastructure bill would steer about $2.8 billion toward the federal highway system in Massachusetts and another $1.35 billion to non-federally aided roads and bridges in the state.

It also calls for more than $1.3 billion to support MBTA capital improvements such as electrifying commuter rail trains and replacing the Green Line fleet, $200 million to promote or support electric vehicle rollout, nearly $65 million for regional transit networks and authorities, and several other spending provisions.

Baker kicked off debate by filing a $9.7 billion bond bill in March that he and his deputies said would maximize the impact of federal dollars flowing to Massachusetts under a new infrastructure law and position the Bay State to compete for more grant funding.

President Biden's bipartisan infrastructure law made billions of dollars available to states in competitive grants, but to get in the running, the Massachusetts Legislature needs to approve all its spending upfront before the federal government reimburses.

About $3.5 billion of the original pot Baker proposed would put state dollars on the table toward grants, according to SHNS.

Timeline an important factor to some as Torrington considers school improvements


TORRINGTON — A district-wide facilities study will provide the Torrington Board of Education insight on what buildings in the school district are in need of improvements.

The board’s facilities and technology committee is recommending Hamden-based architectural firm Silver Petrucelli and Associates to conduct the study over Glastonbury-based SLAM Collaborative, the architect for the grade 7-12 Torrington Middle/High School project.

Committee members heard presentations from the firms during a special meeting Monday. The full board is scheduled to meet at Torrington High School at 6 p.m. Wednesday, with a final vote on the agenda.

The study will provide board members and district officials an update on the condition of infrastructure throughout the district, options to improve the facilities to ensure they meet existing building and fire codes, are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and more, according to a request for quotations.

If selected by the full board, Silver Petrucelli and Associates would review all eight buildings, six of which are used as active schools, another houses central offices on Migeon Avenue and the eighth is being leased to EdAdvance, a regional educational service center at the former East School on Hogan Drive.

The firm would provide design solutions to address issues affecting daily functions and meet with stakeholders to collect insight, the RFQ states.

Torrington Middle School, built in 1994, is the district’s newest school. The four elementary schools are all at least 70 years old, with grade K-3 Torringford School being renovated in 2007, the last major facilities project before the middle/high school project.

“It’s more than just studies of boilers and mechanical systems,” said John Barlow, district director of facilities. “When we say facilities, there’s a lot of impact on what happens in these buildings for years to come. They lay out sizes of rooms, simple potentials for expansions of rooms or expansions of programs besides just the facility stuff.”

Silver Petrucelli and Associates is undertaking similar studies across Torrington, including one at the city fire department and another at EdAdvance’s Head Start program on Grove Street, said principal architect at the company Dean Petrucelli.

The firm, Petrucelli said, would develop program spreadsheets to break down code conformance, maintenance and program categories to help it generate base plans for potential projects in the future. Petrucelli said the firm would look to conclude the study by October.

That “aggressive” timeline concerned board member Jess Richardson since the district let out for summer break last week. SLAM proposed a finish date of next spring.

“I don’t know many teachers who will have a lot of free time to give this over the summer, and they are already off work,” she said. “That’s a lot to ask.”

Petrucelli said that timeline is based on what he believes his firm is capable of.

“If it stretches out another month or two, we are fine with it,” he said. “I can’t say we can accelerate by another month or two because what we’re showing is already very aggressive.”